I have an awesome friend… we met when Addie was diagnosed, and by “met” I mean we connected via the internet. Rachael Burrows is a kick-tail wheelchair athlete with CP who is nationally ranked.
I am in awe.
On the days that I just feel too lazy to get up, her posts about flipping out of a chair or spasms knocking her down but not keeping her from practice, ensure my lacing up to make at least a few miles of an effort. Rachael’s life is inspiring- having nothing to do with her disability, but more with her life. She’s a dedicated athlete, loving sister and daughter and raises awareness for literally hundreds of people and causes- from other racers to dwarfism. She’s just someone who gets it done.
Which is why when I heard that her funding was in danger I had to ask why! As it were, the Canadian (which Rachael is) coach has made a new ruling declaring all funds for Paralympic athletes needs to go to the top three competitors.
The top three?
I can tell you that I was (almost) never in the top three. But I was strong, fast and willing to get dirt in the skirt (if you don’t know the movie reference, we can’t be friends). Thankfully, coaches, parents and team captains always saw potential. I wasn’t All-American, I wasn’t player of the year, and my name was only ever mentioned in the papers senior year, but I tried and I pushed and I struggled to stay Varsity material. It was a lot of work, and a lot of money- uniforms, travel, insurance and even coaches gifts wracked up a hefty bill- not to even touch upon weeks of summer camp, equipment and the physical therapy I needed for numerous injuries.
So how is a professional athlete- ranked FIRST(!) in her country and 6th in the world- supposed to continue to dedicate their life at such a level if all funding is yanked? More hard work.
I’ve been watching Rachael struggle in a new chair, but she has renamed that a success. She is adapting to it, taking all the steps to be properly fitted and bearing the pains of breaking it in. Imagine the pain of breaking in a pair of shoes times a million. Yeah, that. She does it. Everyday. For a living. A living she does because she can- her disability is more of a different ability. I know I couldn’t race in a chair… I’m just not that strong.
But I digress… two things I want you to know about Paralympians is that they are amazing athletes doing what Olympians do with what God gave them. As I call it: They Sport. [When someone asks me if I am a runner, I also have to admit I love yoga, biking, swimming, zumba and trying new fitness classes (barre, anyone?). So what do I do? I Sport.] Paralympians don’t have the funding or sponsorship like Olympians. Often these athletes raise their own funds to travel or get uniforms and new equipment.
For Rachael, losing funding means more work, but I have yet to hear her waiver in her commitment, even on her worst days- and there are plenty of those. This was taken from a post this summer and it saddened me to the core:
I’m in pain I’m tired, I’ve even put my night splints on the shaking and stabbing feeling in my legs tonight is enough to make me plead for someone to help, the weather is getting colder which I know is the cause.Cerebral Palsy isn’t a cake walk and I’m usually pretty good at just ignoring the spasms, even while training some days. But tonight… That’s another story…. Tonight I lay here and wait I’ve tried everything I know.
Sometimes I wish I could get abled bodied people to understand how much it hurts and how difficult this part of my disability is.
But you can bet she got up and was working to meet her training goals- the very next day.
Rachael is a 5 time Canadian Team member with her most recent competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Summer Games… I want to give her all the love and support she needs as she figures out her career and hope you will read more about her on her HERE and on FACEBOOK and her BLOG.
She’s my sister to the north, and I cannot wait until she’s offering advice to my (perhaps!) future Paralympian swimmer, Addie!